Originally published March 22 2013
FAA says entrepreneurs can't operate drones, only police and military can
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) If you're a business owner, hobbyist or just a drone enthusiast, you need not apply for a permit with the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a drone. You won't get it, you see, because drone permits are being limited to the police and the military. Welcome to America, 2013, home of the Statist.
According to CBS Minnesota, Brooklyn Park, Minn., residents Charles Eide and Mike Danielson said they've been flying radio-controlled aircraft since they were small children and growing up in the same neighborhood.
When they became adults, they formed a business, sharing a mutual love for video production and photography. Soon, station WCCO reported, both realized they could combine their childhood and adult passions; their business really took off when they began doing aerial photography work.
Great business and safety first - but the FAA says no dice
By putting stabilized cameras onto the underbellies of small drone aircraft, both men were able to offer aerial views of a number of properties - construction sites, real estate listings and city attractions, just to name a few.
"It helps sell houses, which is really in my opinion a huge economic impact in the Twin Cities - helps houses move faster," Eide said.
Their business was really booming, until one day when the huge hand of bureaucracy slapped them down. They were contacted by the Minneapolis office of the FAA, and told simply to ground their commercial use of the aircraft. It turns out, they were informed, that current regulations don't permit the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.
The FAA says commercial use of a UAV is strictly prohibited from operating in what the agency calls "Class B" airspace, which is airspace located in densely populated areas around key airport traffic routes - most often that which is surrounding the busiest airports with higher volumes of commercial air traffic.
Eide says he gets that and understands the need for some regulations of the industry. But he argued that his company already has its own set of safety protocols and that their UAVs rarely fly higher than 200 feet off the ground. What's more, they will never operate them near an airport.
"What we're doing is low-range stuff to show off the real estate market and features in a house or property," Danielson added.
That doesn't matter, according to the FAA. The agency says urban airspace demands one-size-fits-all draconian regulations and restrictions. Eide says he understands, but that his company has invested tens of thousands of dollars in radio-controlled aircraft, so flying safely is not an option but a strict requirement.
Meanwhile, drone approval for law enforcement and the military is soaring
"I agree that there should be regulation on this stuff because there are more and more hands touching this stuff," Eide said. "However, we need to work together here."
The two business owners are hoping the FAA works with them on the issue and the agency says it will examine its rules again, but if history is any indicator, Eide and Donaldson might start looking for another line of work, at least in the short term.
The FAA, meanwhile, is moving full steam ahead in allowing more federal agencies, the military and local police use of drones. According to CBS News, the FAA has given out more than 1,400 licenses to law enforcement agencies, universities and federal agencies to operate drones, despite very vocal concerns being raised by privacy advocates.
And while commercial use for drones may eventually be approved - the FAA is supposed to have crafted new rules governing their use by 2015, though the agency is dragging its feet - the military and federal agencies are expected to dominate the drone manufacturing market.
"[E]ven as the commercial market develops, the military market will be dominant. The drones are bigger, more complex. The military wants the maximum performance and price is no problem. In the commercial sphere, price is paramount," said Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group, which monitors the aerospace industry.
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